Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon (Entergy Corp.)
Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon (Entergy Corp.)
Tuesday November 27, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Representatives from the Agency of Natural Resources will be in Brattleboro Thursday night to brief the members of the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel on the process behind granting a discharge permit for Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room at Brattleboro Union High School, 131 Fairground Road.

"We have asked that ANR be included in an upcoming agenda so that it can give the panel members a status update on the thermal discharge permit," said Elizabeth Miller, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service. Miller is also the chairwoman of VSNAP. "ANR will focus on educating us on the overall process rather than on the specific details of Yankee's operation."

In March 2006, ANR issued an amended discharge permit to Yankee, allowing Entergy, which owns and operates the power plant, to increase the summer temperature of the upper Connecticut River by an additional 1 degree.

According to the Environmental and Natural Resource Law Clinic of Vermont Law School, which represented the Connecticut River Watershed Council, Trout Unlimited and the Citizens Awareness Network in an appeal of the permit, this was the third in a series of permit amendments beginning in 1978 that ANR had granted allowing Vermont Yankee to bypass its cooling towers and discharge non-radioactive reactor cooling water into the river.

The organizations have been concerned about the impact of the river warming on Atlantic salmon and American shad.

After a trial in June 2007 before the Vermont Environmental Court, the ANR's permit decision was upheld, but new conditions were added to protect American shad.

The Environmental and Natural Resource Law Clinic appealed the Environmental Court's decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, which upheld the permit but ruled that state water quality standards are applicable to the plant's thermal discharge.

In February 2011, the clinic filed a petition on behalf of CRWC asking ANR to act on Entergy's five-and-a-half-year-old permit application. The petition asked ANR to take a fresh look at the available information, including additional data, and to issue a new permit with more stringent thermal limitations and more protective intake technology.

In March 2011, ANR announced that it would begin the permit renewal process.

ANR is also reviewing draft rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that make recommendations on how best to minimize the environmental impact of a power plant such as Yankee. Mitigation could include requiring the plant to discontinue discharging heated water into the Connecticut River and instead use its two cooling towers to reduce the temperature of its reactor coolant.

In addition to the briefing from ANR, the members of VSNAP will discuss what to include in its annual report to be presented to legislators.

"Prior annual reports have been relatively factual," said Miller. "But we see it as an opportunity to present recommendations and advice.

Finally, time will be set aside to take comments from the public.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.